Saving and technology for St. John Schools

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 28, 2000

ERIK SANZENBACH / L’Observateur / October 28, 2000

RESERVE – In order to keep the St. John the Baptist Parish public schoolsystem up-to-date and on the cutting edge of technology, the school board recently unanimously approved a new E-rate discount for the year 2001- 2002.

The E-rate is a federally subsidized program that gives school districts discounts on internet rates and hardware used to get onto the internet.

The St. John Parish School Board has been using the E-rate for the lastthree years, and according to the Director of Finance Felix Boughton it saves the school system about $100,000 annually.

Technology Coordinator Robert Brown said, “The E-rate gives us a 80 to 90 percent discount on internet rates, plus we get discounts on equipment like routers, file servers, modems and CDU’s.”Brown said that without the E-rate the school system would spend about $400,000 a year to connect to the internet.

All the schools except for East St. John High School and John L. Ory Magnetwill benefit from the E-rate. Brown said East St. John and Ory havestudent populations which makes them ineligible for the E-rate.

Brown said the E-rate has two components, digital and voice communications. The school board is looking into using the E-rate to fundinstalling its very own telephone system in the future.

“A phone system of our own would really reduce our phone costs using the E-rate,” said Brown.

To qualify for the special discount, the school board has to put up $150,000 of its own money which comes from the general fund.

In other school board business: Central Office clerk Sally Granier was named St. John Parish VolunteerTutor of the Year by the YMCA Educational Services. Granier has beentutoring since 1998 and helps adults learn to read.

East St. John High School was awarded a three-year grant of $205,948from the MetroVision School-to-Career program to create what is called Small Learning Communities within the school. These communities willteach specific careers plus a core curriculum to the students. East St.John already has four of these communities specializing in petrochemical, culinary arts, health and medicine. St. John Parish schools join otherschools in Orleans, Jefferson, St. Bernard and St. Charles parishes in thisMetroVision partnership.

John L. Ory Magnet School was awarded a $2,050 grant from the Houma-Terrebone Arts and Humanities Council to help teachers use modern technology in their classrooms. Teacher Leslie Pelezo wrote the grantcalled “Transforming Teaching through Technology.” Pelezo said they willuse the grant to purchase CD burners, digital cameras and other digital equipment so that teachers can use them as teaching aids.

The school board passed two resolutions that would “roll forward” the tax millages for the year 2000. Boughton said that after a reassessmentof property taxes the millages were slightly lower. Boughton said theschool board had the option to roll forward the millages to last year’s higher rate. The first resolution accepted the millage rates and thesecond resolutions allowed the board to roll forward the millage to last year’s higher rate. On both resolutions the vote 8-2. Matthew Ory andJohn Crose both voted against the resolutions, and LaRue Speights was absent from the meeting.

Crose said, “We just asked people to approve a sales tax. I feel we areover taxed, and I am very reluctant to add anything more.” The board unanimously accepted the results of the Oct. 7 electionraising the sales tax by a 1/4 cent.

The president of the St. John Parish Association of Educators, AnnetteHouston, thanked the board for their effort in supporting the sales tax.

“All the teachers are very excited about this,” said Houston.

The revenue from the sales tax increase will be dedicated to a pay raise for all school teachers.

Board member Clarence Triche, who spearheaded the sales tax referendum, thanked Superintendent Chris Donaldson for pushing the tax throughout the parish.

By a vote of 7-3 Jesse Oubre was named as the new supervisor of Custodial/Maintenance. This new position is a result of Donaldson’smaster plan to re-organize school board management. The new postcombines maintenance and custodial into one department. Oubre willreceive an annual salary of $52,000. James Madere, C.J. Watkins and Crosevoted against the appointment.

Board president Gerald Keller expressed concern about there not being a master crisis management plan for the school system. With the danger ofhurricanes and tornadoes and the possibility of shootings and hostage- taking, Keller wanted to know if such a plan was in existence.

“Each school has a plan and the plans vary,” said Keller. “I have a problemwith that. There should be one common plan.”Elton Oubre Jr., supervisor of Safe and Drug-free Schools, assured Kellerthat a committee was in place and is formulating one plan to be used by all the schools. The plan is being reviewed by the office of the Louisianaattorney general because it follows the state’s model for a crisis management plan.

“We are in the process of putting together one plan for all 12 schools,” said Oubre.

Donaldson got the board to open a new position at Fifth Ward Elementary. At the request of principal Jackie Forest, a school socialworker will now work full time at Fifth Ward to help students with counseling. Donaldson also recommended Wendy Boldizar to fill theposition, and the board accepted her appointment unanimously.

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